No Country for Old Men

1. In Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Llewelyn Moss discovers a briefcase full of 2 million dollars. The story involves Moss’s attempt to escape the wrath of Anton Chigurh, a hitman, who was hired by a drug cartel to retrieve the briefcase; meanwhile, an aging Sheriff (Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) tires to save Moss and put an end to the rising body count that is a consequence of Moss’s reluctance to let go of the money. A major theme of the book is the varying philosophies on life and how they clash: Anton, the hitman, is a pure nihilist; the Sheriff has “traditional” values, and Moss is somewhere in between. Ultimately, the story demonstrates how times are changing (killers have become more brutal and morals more “flexible”), and Sheriff Bell is no longer fit for the job.

2. Directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s film adaptation of No Country for Old Men follows the same premise and storyline as the novel: Llewelyn Moss tries to escape the bullets of hitman Anton Chigurh, and Sheriff Bell tries to save him. In this process, the difference between traditional America and modern times becomes the primary theme of the film. Through the reflections and observations of Sheriff Bell, the fact that morality has declined becomes apparent.

3. Joel and Ethan Coen’s film stays true to McCarthy’s novel in most aspects. The style of the novel works well for film – the details are mainly visual rather than cerebral; accordingly, at their base, the characters seem barren at first, but gain depth through their actions and conversations with others. However, a primary difference between the two is that the film lacks many of Sheriff Bell’s internal reflections, which break apart the action, while giving greater purpose to his presence in the story, and ultimately enhancing the theme of corroding tradition throughout the novel. Although the lack of Sheriff Bell’s reflections may diminish the overall impact of the clash between tradition and modernity in the film, this places additional focus on Llewelyn Moss as the protagonist of the story. When Llewelyn dies in the film, the affect is more severe, which, in turn, amplifies the theme of changing levels of brutality.


No Country for Old Men – The Ending Explained

With his analysis of the film, No Country for Old Men, Zetland argues that the film addresses multiple philosophies on life, but never actually makes a statement on any of them. He analyzes the title of the film and its spiritual/poetic connections, as well as the similarities between the three characters in their actions as well as their appearance on the camera. His analysis is valuable for understanding the film because it provides insight into how Llewelyn, Anton, and Sheriff relate to each other, even if their philosophies seemingly differ.

No Country for Old Men: The coin-toss scene, as seen by a linguist

Daniel Midgley analyzes the initial coin-toss scene within No Country for Old Men; he asserts the importance of including all the dialogue in this scene and explains how it establishes Chigurh as an agent of fate in the “game” of death he plays with his victims.

Theodicy and No Country for Old Men

Richard Beck analyzes the philosophical implications within No Country for Old Men; ultimately concluding, that although virtue fails within the film world, this failure asserts that there can be true virtue, and in this processes, a clash between good and evil arises in the film.


No Country for Old Men is undeniably violent and yet it is somewhat reticent about two killings, that of Llewelyn Moss and his wife Carla Jean. Why would the film-makers decline to film their killings when so many other killings in the film are graphically shown?

Throughout No Country for Old Men, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the body count is high, and the audience is exposed to many of these deaths in all of their gory detail; however, the deaths of Llewelyn Moss and his wife Carla Jean, are not given the same attention – this lack of focus ultimately serves to enhance the theme of chaos throughout the film. Without the internal reflections of Sheriff Bell, the film adaptation of No Country for Old Men, seems to transfer its “protagonistic” focus onto Llewelyn, so when he dies in a seemingly random manner—his death is implied by drive-away gangsters and screams from pedestrians, then confirmed by Bell’s observations of his bullet-filled corpse—the audience is shocked. However, while considering all of the other carnage along with Llewelyn’s demise, this event actually becomes less surprising. The idea behind the story is that this is a harsh world to live in, and by having the character who seems to be the protagonist of the film die in a meaningless way (off camera), this “harsh” mentality of the world becomes even more powerful and real. Likewise, the death of Carla Jean, also implicit rather than explicit functions in a similar manner: only, in this case, the un-seen violence develops a sense of horror within the mind of the viewer. Rather than show us what happens, we must construct Carla Jean’s death within our own minds – we know that she is dead because Chigurh checks his shoes for blood as he exits her house, but we don’t know how she died. And since she is perhaps the most innocent character to die within the film, her implied demise becomes even more profound. By having two of their important characters die in implicit rather than explicit ways, the Coen brothers express the brutality of the world, that is seemingly no longer fit for “old men”.

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